The Missouri Attorney General's office now has a website devoted to keeping individuals informed of progress in preventing animal cruelty. http://ago.mo.gov/CanineCruelty/
Concerned citizens can report possible abuse and neglect to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Hotline by calling
Humane Society of Missour Animal Cruelty Hotline (314) 647-4400 .
What is animal abuse? In Missouri Law, animal abuse encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. A person is guilty of animal abuse when a person purposely or intentionally causes injury or suffering to an animal, or purposely kills an animal in an unlawful manner. Intentional abuse is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter or veterinary care or at the felony level, maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.
What is neglect? Animal neglect occurs when a person fails to provide adequate care or adequate control which results in substantial harm to the animal. "Adequate control" requires an owner to reasonably restrain or govern an animal so that it does not injure itself, another animal, a person or a property. If an animal is chained out and jumps a fence or falls down a hill and hangs itself, the owner may be in violation of adequate control laws. Animal abandonment is also an example of animal neglect.
Who can help? According to the Missouri Attorney General, enforcing animal abuse laws is the responsibility of local police or county officers. Call the local police or sheriff to report animal neglect or abuse. Give them an address, description of persons, and/or a vehicle and license plate number. Persons may also report abuse or neglect by phone to the Animal Cruelty Task Force at the Humane Society of Missouri (unrelated to FCHS) at (314) 951-1514.
Or report neglect, dog fighting or suspected unlicensed puppy mills to "Operation Bark Alert" of the Missouri Department of Agriculture at (573)751-4211 or mda.mo.gov/animals/ACFA/barkalert/.
"Adequate shelter" Animals should not be left outside in frigid winter weather. They should be allowed to "do their business" and then brought back in. For animals who are spending some time outside, it's essential that they have shelter that protects them from injury, wind, rain, sleet, snow, hail and direct sunlight, and that it is small and well insulated enough for the pet's own body heat to keep the temperature up. Use straw to keep shelters cozy.
Clean, dry straw should be provided for bedding rather than towels, rugs or blankets, which absorb moisture and freeze in frigid temperatures. Change the straw regularly.
Several types of inadequate shelter frequently encountered by Cruelty Investigators include an unheated garage or shed, a dog house that is too large or lacks straw, or dogs simply tied out to a porch, fence or deck with no shelter at all.
City of St. Louis Animal Care and Control (ACC) also urges residents to consider the safety of pets during cold weather. Extreme low temperatures are also dangerous to companion animals, such as dogs and cats, and pets should not be exposed to extreme low temperatures for extended periods of time.
If kept outdoors, animals are required to have access adequate shelter, food and water. ACC encourages citizens to be especially mindful of their pet's water source, as water will freeze in these temperatures. Sufficient shelter is defined as a cover or protection from the elements containing adequate and appropriate bedding such as straw, hay, or wood shavings, which is small enough to allow the dog or cat to retain its body heat but is large enough to allow the animal to stand, turn around, and lie down.
Failure to provide proper shelter and care for companion animals in extreme temperatures could be prosecuted as cruelty to animals. Animal Care and Control Officers will be patrolling to ensure the safety of companion animals.
Through the "Free Straw for Warm Paws" program, Operation SPOT has made free straw available for pick up at the FCHS shelter between 11am and 4pm Mondays, and Wednesday through Saturday. This straw can be used as bedding for dog houses and other companion animal shelters. Dog houses may be available upon request.